Henrik Lundqvist, the King of Rangerstown, will be looking over his shoulder when Igor Shestyorkin joins the New York Rangers.
The King of the New York Rangers may be dethroned as early as next season. Henrik Lundqvist, the undisputed number one goalie for the Blueshirts for the past 14 seasons, may have some competition for the first time in his professional career when next season kicks off at training camp.
The team’s top prospect goaltender, Igor Shestyorkin, has enjoyed a phenomenal career playing in the Kontinental Hockey League for SKA Saint Petersburg. He has been playing for the team for the past three seasons and his numbers are outstanding.
The future number one goaltender for the Rangers has appeared in 24 games for SKA this season, posting a 20-3-1 record with 1.21 goals against average, .947 save percentage, and eight shutouts. Since the start of the 2016-2017 season, Shesterkin has posted a 75-9-4 record, along with 1.54 goals against average, a .938 save percentage, and 23 shutouts in 91 KHL appearances since the start of the 2016-17 season.
Rangers director of European scouting, Nick Bobrov, has been watching Shestyorkin play for some time and has been very impressed. In an outdoor game in front of a record crowd of 71,381 in St. Petersburg on Dec. 17, Shestyorkin backstopped the Russian national team to a 5-0 win over Finland. It seemed like an easy win only because Shesterkin made multiple “Grade-A saves,” according to Bobrov.
His work ethic is second to none and now he may bring that skill and hunger to a young New York Rangers team—one that will be preparing to say goodbye to its veteran leader as it welcomes perhaps the heir to the throne.
Lundqvist, the 14-year veteran, has been an outstanding goaltender for New York. Though it was admirable that he wanted to remain a Ranger during this rebuilding process (some say it hurt more than helped), it is inevitable that his replacement will be coming. The toughest part of Hank’s career is ahead of him with two years left on his contract. Is he willing to hand his throne over to the up and coming Russian?
Hank’s outstanding play has helped the Rangers stay relevant in the playoff race. The team sits nine points out of the second wild-card spot with 34 games remaining. He has appeared in 35 games with a 15-12-7 record that includes 3.01 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. Lundqvist will be the only team representative at this year’s NHL All-Star game in San Jose this weekend.
Henrik will turn 37 in March and David Quinn has acknowledged that he has been overplaying the King this season. Alexander Georgiev has some seen some more action in recent weeks which could be the start of the transition Henrik will need to accept over the next two seasons.
Regardless of how well Shestyorkin has played, there will be plenty of adjustments he will need to get accustomed with. A smaller playing area and better competition playing against him, he will face more shots per game then he has in the KHL. The biggest adjustment will be replacing Henrik, slowly, over the next two seasons.
Quinn will have the last decision when it comes to games played. In year’s past, Hank has been able to convince coaches that he should play (on a routine basis). The head coach, who will only be in his second year when next season begins, will have to be strong enough to balance who to rotate at his pleasure, not Henrik’s.
This all revolves around the opportunity for Shestyorkin coming to the Rangers and putting forth a strong enough training camp to make the squad without spending some time in Hartford. At the conclusion of his KHL season, the prospect will head to Slovakia to play in the World Championships in May.
Following that tournament, the team will have a much better understanding of what next season’s training camp should look like with or without Igor Shestyorkin on the roster.
A change in net is coming. How soon and fast is up to Lundqvist, Shestyorkin and Quinn. The rookie will be ready and prepared, the same as he has done in the KHL.
Henrik Lundqvist is another player who is always prepared and focused. Now, fans will find out if he is a gracious stepping aside as he is in protecting his net.